SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was attacked by two lions while visiting a zoo in Guatemala, according to a church spokesman.
Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Elder Paul Oakey from Saint George was visiting the the zoo with other missionaries during a preparation day outing when he got too close to the lion cage.
ABC 4 News spoke with Oakey's stepfather Jonathan Allen, who said Elder Oakey was standing on a concrete fence that he thought was the same height on the inside of the cage as the outside. It turns out the floor of the cage was higher that Oakey thought, and he was standing within grasp of the big cats.
Allen said as Paul stood with his back to the lions, one of them crept up and grabbed his right leg, pulling him against cage bars, where a second lion then grabbed and clawed at his arm.
Allen said Oakey's companion grabbed a pole and shoved it into the mouth of the lion that had a grip on his arm, while Oakey himself poked at the eyes of the lion attached to his leg.
Allen said Oakey and his companion were finally able to free him from the lion's grasp a few minutes later.
Jonathan Allen said Paul endured 5 hours of emergency surgery on Monday just after the attack, and was able to call home to give the family an update on his condition.
Allen said Paul was in good spirits and joked with his mom about the biblical story of Daniel in the Lion's den.
Allen said Paul may have to have another surgery, as the blood pressure in his arm and leg were not progressing as doctors had hope. Allen said Paul was being transported to a state-of-the art facility in Guatemala City for more treatment.
Allen said Elder Oakey is taking the incident in stride.
"Paul loves life," said Allen. "Regardless of his poor judgment in this case, he's energetic, he's healthy, he's strong, he's in good spirits, and it's just another adventure for him."
Allen also thanked everyone for their support.
"We're grateful for all the outpouring of prayers and concern on his behalf," said Allen.
Trotter later released a statement on Elder Oakey, saying:
"Elder Paul Richard Oakey, 20, from St. George, Utah serving in the Guatemala Guatemala City South Mission was attacked by a lion when he stood too close to an exhibit at a local zoo while on a preparation day activity. He sustained serious injuries to a leg and arm and was rushed to a local hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. The doctors are still evaluating and assessing his condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with Elder Oakey and his family as he goes through this difficult time."
In: Regional News
Tags: Utah, Mormon, attack, lions, Guatemala, missionary, zoo
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States (load item map)
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